It’s About Time: computational and Experimental Investigations of Adaptation to Nature’s Temporal Structure

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Abstract

The brain can be conceptualized as a predictive machine that generates predictions in order to act instead of react to an ever-unfolding world. Time is critical to any prediction. Think about an athlete awaiting the start signal: "Ready?" - "Set..." - "Go!". A good start depends on the athlete's estimate of the interval between "Set..." and "Go!".

In my research, I propose that almost all of our behavior is timed, even though we are hardly aware of it. Probably, up to now, you have never considered that while the shower water heats, the brain somehow keeps track of the time. By using your shower, you form an implicit estimate of when the water is heated up. Based on this estimate, you can prepare to hop under your warm shower at the right time.

How does the brain track such intervals (the time it takes for the water to heat) to anticipate when an event takes place? Because we are so used to thinking about clock-time, we tend to think in terms of 'brain-clocks' that track time. However, this turns out to be an incorrect concept. Research suggests that time is intrinsic to the brain’s neural dynamics. My research demonstrates that these dynamics can be tuned through associative memory to time behavior. By interacting with events in our world, we learn to associate their occurrence with certain points in time and adapt behavior accordingly, for example, to take off right after the "Go!" signal.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Groningen
Supervisors/Advisors
  • van Rijn, Hedderik, Supervisor
  • Kruijne, Wouter, Co-supervisor
Award date19-Jan-2023
Place of Publication[Groningen]
Publisher
Print ISBNs978-94-6458-807-1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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